Dilemma of delivering broadband revealed

Frustrations at broadband connection speeds are common
Frustrations at broadband connection speeds are common

Digital Scotland and Community Broadband Scotland officials who met Berwickshire residents were left in no doubt about the frustration there is with broadband speeds in the area.

Superfast broadband is defined as anything over 24mbps, but among the 40-plus people at a meeting in Duns on Tuesday night, the best broadband speed turned out to be 10mbps, a speed many in the room could only dream of.

Digital Scotland is working on behalf of the Scottish Government to deliver fibre broadband to 95% of the country by 2017, and Scottish Borders Council has committed more than £8m to the project.

Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) works with rural communities that won’t be served by superfast broadband to find a solution to their local broadband needs.

But the intention to deliver acceptable broadband speeds doesn’t meet the reality of the internet experience in many parts of Berwickshire.

Nine Berwickshire community councils are working on a possible joint CSB project, but despite the assistance of CBS staff, the long timeframe and level of commitment required of volunteers is proving prohibitive.

Stephen Morris, a leading figure in this local project, explained that a survey of five of the community council areas revealed that 90% of residents responding to the survey wanted faster broadband, and 35% of them run businesses from home.

It also revealed the number of premises in ‘white’ postcode areas, those not included in Digital Scotland programme, and those in the ‘grey’ postcode areas, which are on the Digital Scotland radar but haven’t yet been upgraded.

“59% of premises were in white areas. That’s a big disparity from the proposed aims,” said Mr Morris. When it comes to broadband speed “nobody is getting more than 8mbps” and many are only getting 2mbps, he said.

“The CBS process is complicated, lengthy and requires considerable community input,” added Mr Morris.

Keith Dickson, chairman of Gavinton Community Council, agreed, adding: “It’s challenging and some communities just don’t have the capacity to get something off the ground.”

Rob Dickson, the council’s services director, told those present that the council was aware of the shortcomings of the digital project.

“What we aren’t going to see is the household coverage we thought we were going to see. That’s the challenge we have,” he said.

“Community Broadband Scotland is commendable, but it is very challenging and demanding of communities and is expensive to deliver.

“Why should you not be provided with the same service as those living in towns?

“Please leave here confident that SBC is committed to this.”